Searching for Humanity in the Middle East
We’re living through an era of collapsing paradigms. The conceptual frames that many people use to organize their understanding of the world are crashing and burning upon contact with Middle Eastern reality.
The first paradigm that failed last month was critical race theory or woke-ism. In any situation, there are evil people who are colonizer/oppressors and good people who are colonized/oppressed. It’s not necessary to know about the particular facts about any global conflict, because of intersectionality: All struggles are part of the same struggle between the oppressors and the oppressed.
原來 我 是 妖 二 代
American universities exist to give students the conceptual tools to understand the world. It appears that at many universities, students are instead being fed simplistic ideological categories that blind them to reality.
The second paradigm that fell apart this month was what you might call “pogromism.” This is the belief, common in Jewish communities around the world, that you can draw a straight line from the many antisemitic massacres in ancient history, through the pogroms of the 19th century, through the Holocaust and up to the Hamas massacres of today.
The third conceptual paradigm under threat is the one I have generally used to organize how I see the Middle East conflict: the two-state paradigm. This paradigm is based on the notion that this conflict will end when there are two states with two peoples living side by side. People like me see events in the Middle East as tactical moves each side is taking to secure the best eventual outcome for themselves.
The worldview that has been buttressed by last month’s events is unfortunately the one I find loathsome. You can call it authoritarian nihilism, which binds Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and other strongmen: that we live in a dog-eat-dog world; life is a competition to grab what you can; power is what matters; morality, decency, gentleness, and international norms are luxuries we cannot afford because our enemies are out to destroy us; and we need to be led by ruthless amoralists to take on the ruthless amoralists who seek to take us down.
Some events alter the models we use to perceive reality, and the events of Oct. 7 fit that category. It feels as if we’re teetering between universalist worldviews that recognize our common humanity and tribal worldviews in which others are just animals to be annihilated. What Israel does next will influence what worldview prevails in the 21st century.
文／David Brooks 譯／羅方妤